SPRINGFIELD, Mo. –
A year ago at the Bass Pro Shops Tournament of Champions, then-unbeaten Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.)
was stunned in the championship game by Paul VI (Fairfax, Va.)
Sporting a perfect record once again entering this year’s event and ranked No. 1 nationally by MaxPreps, getting caught looking ahead to a potential rematch with Paul VI in Saturday night’s final would be somewhat understandable for head coach Kevin Boyle’s Eagles.
But Montverde Academy looked like it was living in the moment Thursday in front of over 7,000 fans at JQH Arena, thrashing Village Christian (Sun Valley, Calif.)
96-46 in opening-round play at Bass Pro.
"There was definitely a lack of focus last year," Montverde Academy senior guard D'Angelo Russell
said. "But with this group of guys, it could be anybody's night. Fortunately it was my night tonight. It might be somebody else's night tomorrow night."
The Eagles took Village Christian out early, putting their length and quickness to work in a full-court press that helped them build a 29-6 lead after eight minutes. The outmanned Crusaders turned the ball over 18 times in the first half.
Russell was the catalyst early for Montverde Academy early, pouring in 20 first-half points along with three steals and three assists. The future Ohio State Buckeye finished with a game-high 24 points.
Virtually everything went right for Montverde, which shot 61 percent from the field and connected on 13 of 18 3-point attempts. Russell and Jalyn Patterson
both hit 3-point heaves at the buzzer to end quarters, with Patterson’s coming on a bank shot.
Also finishing in double figures for MaxPreps.com's defending national champs were junior sensation Ben Simmons
(13 points, 10 rebounds), Justin Bibbs
(11 points), Jordan Caroline
(10 points, six rebounds) and Patterson (10 points, three assists).
Spreading the wealth on a roster that features eight players signed or committed to Division I schools (with more to come) isn't problematic, according to Russell.
"Our team is so talented, we all have each others' back and play for each other," Russell said.
The Eagles improved to 16-0 and won their 22nd game in a row dating back to the 2012-13 season. Montverde Academy’s last loss came Jan. 21 of last year against Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.)
– just two nights after the disappointing loss to Paul VI in the Bass Pro final.
Montverde Academy was playing its first game without California-bound guard Ahmaad Rorie
, who was dismissed from the team this week.
Village Christian (12-2) was led by 6-foot-8 junior wing Bennie Boatwright
, who tallied 12 points.White Station (Memphis, Tenn.) 64, Wesleyan Christian Academy (High Point, N.C.) 50
After a sluggish first half, No. 4 White Station started the second on an 18-2 run that sent Wesleyan Christian Academy to the consolation bracket.
"We just wanted to get back to what we do," White Station head coach Jesus Patino said of his team's surge after halftime. "We've been playing well but we came out in this game a little bit flat. We have been traveling a lot and we came out in a bit of a daze."
Junior guard Nych Smith
kept the Spartans afloat with 13 first-half points and finished with 16.
"When I saw the usual guys that really carry the load for us not doing what they usually do, I took it as a time to kind of put the team on my back until everybody got into the flow of things," Smith said.
White Station (15-0) also received 16 from LaDarius Coleman
and 12 points and eight rebounds from LeRon Black
North Carolina-bound senior Theo Pinson
paced Wesleyan Christian Academy with 23 points, six rebounds and five assists.
White Station is making its eighth appearance at the Bass Pro Shops Tournament of Champions with titles in 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004 and 2010.Paul VI (Fairfax, Va.) 83, Willard (Mo.) 49
Ranked No. 11 nationally by MaxPreps, Paul VI jumped on Willard early in Thursday’s opener, racing to a 16-3 lead and maintaining a comfortable cushion throughout.
Junior guard Joshua Reaves
paced the victorious Panthers with 17 points, going 6 of 6 from the field and 5 of 5 from the line. Tyler Scanlon
, a 6-7 sophomore, added 15 points and seven rebounds for Paul VI. Kevin Dorsey
(15 points, four steals) and Georgetown pledge Marcus Derrickson
(14 points, five rebounds) also finished in double figures for the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference powerhouse.
Paul VI (13-2) held a 39-21 advantage on the boards and forced 26 Willard turnovers.
Missouri State recruit Chris Kendrix
, playing on the floor he will call home in college, led Willard (11-3) with 26 points.Christ the King (Middle Village, N.Y.) 49, Kickapoo (Springfield, Mo.) 46
A pro-Kickapoo crowd came ready to push the Chiefs past New York City power Christ the King, but both teams struggled from the field early on – combining to shoot just 3 of 20 from the field in the first eight minutes.
The energy at JQH Arena started to build when Jack Simpson
of Kickapoo completed a 4-point play at the 3:43 mark of the second quarter to pull the Chiefs within two at 12-10. Kyle Campbell
drilled 3-pointers on Kickapoo’s next two possessions to help the local favorites close the half on a 14-0 run and take a 20-12 lead into halftime.
Getting touches deep in the paint for 6-10, 300-pound Adonis De La Rosa
, Christ the King (12-1) outscored Kickapoo 22-8 in the third quarter to regain control. DeLaRosa finished with 17 points on 7 of 9 shooting from the floor.
Sophomore Rawle Alkins
added 12 points for the Royals.
Kickapoo (11-3) received a game-high 12 points to go along with seven assists from junior point guard Tyson Batiste
5 p.m. – Willard vs. Wesleyan Christian Academy (Consolation)
6:30 p.m. – Kickapoo vs. Village Christian (Consolation)
8 p.m. – Paul VI vs. White Station (Semifinal)
9:30 p.m. – Christ the King vs. Montverde Academy (Semifinal)